For those of you who don't know what the Kirkin' of the Tartan is, it all began on April 27, 1941 by the Reverend Peter Marshall, who was minister of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. Rev. Marshall, who was born in Coatbridge, Scotland, held prayer services to raise funds for the British War relief. It was at the April service when he delivered the a sermon entitled "the Kirkin' of the Tartans" which celebrated the shared traditions of the American Scots and their brethren in Scotland. What began as a celebration of pride in their heritage has become an annual event that often includes pipers, dancers, reading of the names of the deceased since the last Kirkin', the reading of scripture and of course the blessing of the Tartans. After Rev. Marshall's death in the 1950's it has moved the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. where the tradition has continued to this day. Though the Kirkin' can be held at anytime during the year, the two days most popular are on November 30th which is St. Andrews Day ( St. Andrew being the patron saint of Scotland) and April 6th, TARTAN DAY which commemorates Scotland's declaration of freedom- Declaration of Arbroath, on April 6th 1320 from English oppression during the war of Scottish Independence.
Now 688 years later, April 6 is celebrated in Scotland as National Tartan Day with events celebrating their heritage, if not their freedom from English rule (thanks to the Act of Union, 1707). This year's honorary spokesperson for the day was Scottish Born actor, Brian Cox, who recently appeared the movie THE WATER HORSE: The Legend of the Deep , a children's story about the legend of the Loch Ness monster. Scotland's Tartan Day was the inspiration for our country's National Tartan Day. What, you didn't know the US had designated a national holiday called Tartan Day? Its not surprising but when one thinks about the contributions that scores and scores of early Scottish immigrants have made to the United States it is staggering as a group they have not been honored before this.
Some of those contributions include:
Place names from their their homeland and families/clans (Campbellsport, WI and Dundee, Wi to name a few of the local to me) much of Nation's capital is the result of Scottish Stone Masons plying their craft.
Sports: How about the growing popularity of both Golf and Curling , both of Scottish heritage/origin some believe our track and field has strong ties to the heavy athletic events that originated at highland games down through the century.
Religion: Many of the early Scots who emigrated to the US were "transported" here involuntary because of their religious preference, the US Presbyterian Church has grown to be one of the most influential of all the Protestant faiths. Much of our American work ethic is result of these early settlers from Scotland, be they Highlander or Lowlander.
Education: The Scots who emigrated here in the 18th century were well educated and literate, thanks to the Scottish Reformation, and helped to develop the importance of education. Many were tutors or headmasters in schools and some went on to develop universities like Princeton.
Medicine: Many of the earliest doctors in America were born and trained in Scotland or had traveled to Scotland to be educated as Scotland had established itself as a leader in medicine of the period. Probably in large part because they had such an educated populace. Many of the earliest medical teaching facilities which were uniquely separate from the established medical hospitals and were started by Scots or those of Scottish descent who brought the concept one must also heal the mind as well as the body.
2008, US National Cathedral Kirkin of the Tartans
With the popularity of the Kirkin' of the Tartans in Washington, DC since the mid 1950's it seemed inevitable that we in the US would adopt this holiday as well. Though it was the Canadians, who like us have a long historical tie to Scotland, created their National Tartan Day in 1993. In April, 1997 a resolution was presented on the floor of the US Senate to create a permanent day to recognize the contributions those of Scots descent have made to this country. But it was the Senate Resolution 155 in March 1998 that recognized the first US National Tartan Day celebration, April 6th. However, it took the House to also recognize April 6th as National Tartan Day until 2005 to pass House Resolution 41. From this time forward throughout the US, those of Scots and Scots/Irish have been celebrating their Scottish heritage at events sponsored by clans/families, the St Andrews Society, the Robert Burns Clubs and the Caledonia Society as well as churches and communities with strong historical ties to Scotland. April 6th is now recognized as National Tartan Day.
Declaration of Arbroath
The Arbroath Declaration 2008. presented by the Arbroath Abbey Pageant Society who recreate the signing of the declaration at Arbroath, Scotland
In spite of the Scot's stunning victory at Bannockburn, which repelled King Edward II to return to England, the Scots independence was not assured and by 1319 the English had recaptured the Border town of Berwick crucial to Scottish defense. The war with England continued and the Scots under the leadership of their crowned and anointed King- Robert de Bruce appealed to the Pope to recognize the Scots rights for independence. The Pope however wasn't so willing has he had excommunicated Brus for his murder of John Comyn in a Church in town of Dumfries in 1306. This was all part of the battle over who had stronger rights to the throne of Scotland: the Comyns/Balliol connection vs. the Bruce family: all descending from David I but often through the female line and through marriages.
However on April 6th , 1320 at the Abbey of Arbroath, by the Chancellor of Scotland a major Declaration of Independence (the most important Scottish document to date) was written and signed, which declared Scotland's right to be an independent nation from England. What made this Declaration of Arbroath unique ( and it is often said our own American Declaration of Independence was influenced by this one) was the strong wording:
Yet if he should give what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we be on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth nor for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting but for FREEDOM- for that alone, which no honest man gives but with life itself.
It was from this time forward, that Robert Bruce declared he was king only at the will of the people and that with that responsibility if he were to fail them, they had every right to be rid of him. From this point in history forward, all kings and queens of Scotland reigned as King or Queen of the Scots, they were such of the people NOT of the land as it was done in England. It is thought that this position was a result of the Scots long ties to their Celtic heritage that was shared by many including Robert Bruce. It was a unique declaration of popular sovereignty, which meant the King was chosen by the people and NOT God or by the Pope who anointed ( or recognized) the King. This declaration was signed by 38 Noble familiesof Scotland and their (rag) seals can be seen on the original doctrine as well their names appear in the document itself. Many of whose same name appeared on Edward I oath of allegiance early in the War of Scottish Independence, which shows the precarious position the noble families of Scotland were in at this time.
When the declaration was carried to the Pope's court at Avignon, despite Brus being excommunicated (numerous times in his life), only some measure of peace occurred between Scotland and England as a result of the Treaty of Northampton which declared England had no rights over Scotland. Unfortunately it wasn't until March of 1328 that Edward III signed it and a year later King Robert Brus died leaving his young son of five years as King. The fact that young David was married to the daughter of Edward II as per the Treaty of Northampton his first reign through the use of guardians was short lived when Edward Balliol, the nemesis family of the Brus's, throwing Scotland into more turmoil as the young king and his queen were whisked away to France. It wasn't until 1341 that he was able to return to reign as a Scottish King. He left no heirs and it was the Robert II, the son of Marjory Bruce (King Robert's daughter from his first marriage) and Robert Stewart, High Steward of Scotland. And so begins the Reign of the Stewarts, who later adopted the French version Stuart, an influence of Mary Stuart's.
Because so much of the early squabbles for the Kingship of Scotland at this time stemmed form each families relationship to David I my next blog is going to be about David I's influence on Scottish Monasticism, which will finally take us to the Borders of Scotland and all the abbeys he and others help to found in the 12th and 13th century.